Cakes are generally dreamy, but Dreamcakes are especially daydream-worthy: gorgeous confections that taste as good as they look, baked and designed by artist and product designer-turned baker Heather Barranco, who creates these cakes for custom clients and sells through the six locations of metro-NYC area gourmet grocer Eden Marketplace and Garden of Eden. Want to learn more about these sweet treats? Read on:
Tell me about the most recent dessert that impressed you (made by you or someone else). The most recent dessert to impress me? How can I pick just one? I'm impressed by the design of elaborate blown sugar work. It reminds me of when I experimented in glass blowing. I would like to learn sugar blowing. For taste, the most amazing dessert is Italian lobster tails with French cream; it's flaky on the outside and creamy on the inside. Like the food critic in the movie Ratatouille, I love any dessert that takes me back to my childhood. As a kid, my favorite cake was a chocolate cake with banana cream and whipped cream. Now, I make this unique cake combination called Chocolate Bananas Foster. It's a grown up, gourmet version of my childhood favorite with fresh bananas and caramel.
You went to Parsons School of Design. What about cake appeals to you as artistic medium? As an artist, I love experimenting in different mediums. An artist feels the need to express one self visually. I find the multiple senses exciting; taste, smell, texture or touch and of course, sight. I've always been obsessed with desserts from a young age. This medium suits me. I find it also appeals to many people because of the various senses involved. It's almost like you are becoming one with the "beauty" of the cake when you taste it. Along with the senses, I love being a part of my clients' joyous occasions. My favorite subject at Parsons outside of design courses was art history. I love being able to incorporate my clients cultural background into the design and flavor of the cake. Being able to design directly for my clients excites me.
When I worked as a product designer, we were always asked to invent new product concepts for a corporation's marketing team. My designs would be sold all over the world but, I would rarely come in contact with the consumer using my design.
What is Dreamcakes' involvement or relationship with Eden Marketplace / Garden of Eden? Eden Marketplace/ Garden of Eden is a chain of 6 gourmet stores in New York/New Jersey. When I approached one of the owners to sub-lease space in their store, he asked to have my products in all their stores. For a number of years, the owners were actually looking for someone to make gourmet specialty cakes and wedding cakes for their customers. Even though I am the owner of Heather Barranco Dreamcakes, I'm definitely a part of their family. My team and I work 4 out of 5 days in the South Orange flagship bakery of Eden Marketplace. One day a week, I meet with clients in the the NYC corporate office. I love working in their store and being able to build my brand as a part of their gourmet offerings.
Why do wedding cakes always taste different than birthday cake, even if they're the same flavor? Wedding cakes generally taste different from the average cake for two reasons. Many wedding cake designers make the cake as a pound cake because it makes the cake more stable; less likely to fall apart when stacked in tiers or during transport. Birthday cakes are made of lighter, airy cakes. Sometimes they are made with whipped cream--a big no-no for a tiered cakes. I've tested so many recipes to get the perfect balance of light and tasty with stable structure. I have actually received many clients commenting on our taste as being more flavorful and moist then other wedding cakes. I won't compromise taste for design, it's all one in the same. The taste, texture and flavors need to be designed as well as the visual beauty.
Your flavor menu is incredibly eclectic. What plays into you deciding to add a new flavor to the menu? I add so many flavors because I want my flavors to appeal to different ethic groups, and various people. My husband is Indian and I've really embraced his culture as well as the Indian style of cooking. This may help to understand some of my flavor choices. I wouldn't be interested in just offering vanilla and chocolate. Like I said, earlier, I like to design the flavor as well as the visual style of the cake. I want people to be able to experiment and try something they've never tasted.
Tell me more about DreamBoxes. Are they like Pandora's box, but opening up a new world of cake deliciousness? DreamBoxes were inspired by print making and lithography. I liked the idea of having uniquely designed cookies that could be collected or gifted. The design would be numbered and then retired.
Tell me the truth. Do you have any junk food guilty pleasures? Sweet or savory? I have so many junk food guilty pleasures that you wouldn't have space in your blog ;) here's a few, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies from Eden Gourmet, German chocolate cake ice cream at Cold Stone as well as Mint Chocolate Chip, ladyfinger blueberry cheesecake, and weird but true, I crave black licorice every time I enter a drug store. My favorite savory foods are Alaskan King Crab, lobster, oysters and my grandmother's tomato salad. I can't stand greasy food.
You have been called a "renowned party-giver". Sweet! Tell me about a memorable party (including the cake). This may surprise you but the best parties I've thrown are all about enjoying the people. When we have big parties for Christmas, baptism, etc. all of my husband's extended family comes from Canada for the weekend at our house. We've had over 35 people sleeping in our house for a party. We stay up late into the night singing, dancing, and playing the tabla (Indian drum). We sleep everywhere in the house, including the screened in porch. As a family, we cook together elaborate meals. I'm around cake all the time lately so I usually want to make other unique desserts for my family functions. Seeing my children happy with their loved ones is important. I like lots of people surrounding me. This is fun to me.
The day after an event, you have some slightly stale but mostly still good cake. What do you do with the leftovers? If I had a really delicious, day old cake...I would never throw away good food unless it is spoiled or processed junky cake. You can warm stale cake in the microwave to bring back some if it's flavor and moistness. I always have lots of people around. Serve it with some tea and coffee.
What's next? With my background in product design and manufacturing, I would like to eventually build our own line of unique designer kitchen products. We also have some really interesting projects and media in the works, which I can't discuss. I will keep you updated as projects solidify.
Want more? Visit heatherbarranco.com.